Watching for the Smartwatches

As an ISP offering high-speed cable, DSL, satellite, and wireless 4G internet, along of course with basic dial-up access, EarthLink knows how important Internet access is to you.

We even know how much you want to stay connected on the go, based on the success of our new 4G Wireless Internet On-the-Go service.

But do you need it on your watch?

Smartwatches - Samsung Galaxy GearSome of the biggest names in technology seem to think so, which is why there’s been so much news about smartwatches lately. This new kind of watch pairs with a smartphone to provide on-the-go connectivity along with on-the-wrist convenience.

In June, Sony announced its SmartWatch 2, which has a 1.6-inch, 220 x 176 pixel display, Android compatibility, Bluetooth 3 and NFC for connectivity, a projected 3 to 4 day battery life, but no camera, microphone or speakers. The SmartWatch 2 should ship later this month with a price tag of around $260. Cnet has a review of the SmartWatch 2 here.

Just yesterday, smartphone leader Samsung announced that its Samsung Galaxy Gear (shown above) line of watches would be available on September 25.

The Galaxy Gear will have a 1.63-inch, 320×320 pixel AMOLED display, compatibility with new Galaxy smartphones (not older Galaxys or other Android phones), Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, 1 day of expected battery life, 4G of online storage, a 1.9MP camera, 720p video recording, a speaker and two microphones. All for about $299. Engadget.com has a hands-on review with video here.

If you’re curious about either, TechCrunch.com offers a face-off of the Sony and Samsung smartwatches.

Other smartwatches in the works include the Toq from wireless chipmaker Qualcomm, which is expected in October. Cnet has a review of the Toq here.

Looking for a less expensive smartwatch? Or one that’s iPhone compatible? In both those cases, you may want to check out the Pebble, which is currently available for preorder. The $150 Pebble, which was an early Kickstarter success story, is compatible with both iPhones and Androids, has a 144×168 pixel e-paper display, Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0 connectivity, customizable watchfaces, and an expected 7-day battery life.

The most intense and persistent, yet unconfirmed, rumors have been about an upcoming Apple iWatch. TechRadar.com has all the iWatch rumors here.

Think you’ll get a smartwatch? If so, let us know what you’ll be looking for. Not interested? Share your thoughts too. We always like to hear comments from our readers.

Facebook Home – the Not-Quite Facebook Phone

For months now, the Facebook rumors and speculation have been flying:

  • “Facebook is thinking about launching a phone.”
  • “Facebook is going to launch a phone.”
  • “What will the Facebook phone look like?” 
  • “Will the Facebook phone be a Google killer or an Apple killer?” 
  • “When will Facebook finally unveil its phone?” 

New Facebook Home for Android smartphonesWell, the when question has been answered. But what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled last Thursday wasn’t exactly the long-rumored and now-expected Facebook Phone. But neither was it just another Facebook mobile phone app. It’s really something in the middle. Something called Facebook Home.

Facebook Home is a kind of super-app that takes over your Android phone’s home and lock screens and fills them with live updates from your Facebook account with a feature called Cover Feed.

With Facebook Home, you’ll not only be able to see your Facebook news feed, including full-screen photos, but you’ll also be able to Like things, comment on posts, or initiate Facebook Messenger Chats. New messages, by the way, will pop up a round icon showing your friend’s face. It’s a new feature called “Chat Heads” that will allow you to chat even while using other phone features.

As Facebook describes it, Home is “the family of apps that puts your friends at the heart of your phone.” Visit the official Facebook Home page for their overview and highlights. There’s also a brief FAQ that covers the basics of using Facebook Home.

But what about some more objective opinions?

Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg wrote that he “found Facebook Home easy to use, elegantly designed and addictive,” noting that it prompted him to interact with Facebook more than ever. For big Facebook fans, he added, this could be “a big win.”

The New York Times’ David Pogue had a more mixed response, mostly noting the tradeoffs Home users will have to make (loss of easy access to other apps) and some “confusing” aspects of the user interface. In summary, he wrote “everything in Home is attractive, smooth and quick. At the same time, there’s something vaguely incoherent about the whole operation.”

On Mashable, Lance Ulanoff writes that he found the scrolling Cover Feed “undeniably compelling” and that Facebook Home may “suck you back in” if you’ve been drifting away from Facebook. He said in just 36 hours, it prompted him to spend “more time on Facebook than I  have in the past three months.” But, he reminds us that the Cover Feed is expected to get ads at some point in the near future, a feature that “may annoy some people.”

Facebook Home is scheduled to be available tomorrow, April 12, as a free download from the Google Play store on these four Android phones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • HTC One X
  • HTC One X+

Other Android phones will follow. No iPhone, however. Apple’s iOS doesn’t allow the same kind of Home screen takeover that Google’s Android OS does.

And speaking of phones, there is one new phone that’s being called, informally at leaset, the Facebook Phone. It’s the HTC First — as in the first phone to have Facebook Home preinstalled, which Facebook claims is “the best Home experience possible.”

Reviews of the HTC First and its Facebook Home integration were mixed. TechCrunch called the new phone “an impressive first try” and did a nice round-up of other HTC First and Facebook Home reviews.

Google Reader RIP, MyEarthLink MVP?

Google Reader shutting down.Google Reader is shutting down on July 1.

That’s what I found out (via a pop-up) yesterday when I went to visit Google Reader to research Internet news storied for this blog post.

Because it has been my go-to site for Internet news stories, Google Reader was one of the tabs I set up to automatically open when I start my web browser (the myEarthLink Start Page® and EarthLink Web Mail open in two other tabs).

So it will be missed. But, as we reported last July, Google has been steadily shutting down services for some time now.

What should you do if you’re a Google Reader … reader? We’ll, if you are an EarthLink Internet access subscriber, myEarthLink is a good place to start.

You can very easily customize the page to get local news, business news, technology news, sports, health, political – up to 12 news categories in all. Just make sure you are signed in (with your full EarthLink email address and password), and click the Edit links next to the Local and News Headline sections.

You’ll also have easy access to lots of other customizable content (weather, TV & movie listings, stock quotes, sports scores, etc.) while you’re checking your news. So it’s definitely worth a try. It could turn out to be your MVP (most valuable product).

But as convenient as it is, myEarthLink is not a full RSS reader like Google Reader, so it isn’t a direct replacement if that’s what you are looking for.

There’s buzz today that Digg is working on a replacement for Google Reader. But there are plenty of other ways to do RSS right now.

Feedly is a popular one. It’s available as a browser add-on (for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari) as well as an app for both Android and iOS. They’ve been kind smart enough to provide these Tips for Google Reader users migrating to feedly.

NewsBlur is another that has earned high praise, but it appears the rush of traffic is making their website unavailable today (they must not use EarthLink Business Cloud Hosting), so I won’t link you there now.

Mashable.com has a slide-show with other Google Reader Alternatives.

I have personally enjoyed using Google Currents on all my mobile devices (Android and iOS).

Let us know what your favorite Google Reader alternative is by leaving a comment below.

How to Get EarthLink Email on Your Android Smartphone

How to add EarthLink email to Android phone.If you have EarthLink high-speed or dial-up Internet access, you also get EarthLink email (up to 8 addresses with automatic spam and virus protection and other features).

Today we’ll show you how simple it is to use your EarthLink email on your Android phone.

At home, you may log on to Web Mail to get your email. On the go with an Android smartphone, you could also access the mobile version of Web Mail by going to https://m.webmail.earthlink.net/ with your phone’s web browser.

But it’s also easy to set up your Android’s built-in email app to use your EarthLink email.

Here’s a walk-through using the Samsung Galaxy S3 as an example (other Android phones will have similar steps and setting information but some details will be different). See our previous posts if you want to add EarthLink email to your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Locate the Email app on your Home screen (you may need to scroll if you don’t see it right away).
  2. Tap on the Email icon to open the email app.
  3. Press the options menu to the left of the Home button.
  4. Select Settings from the list that pops up.
  5. At the top of the Settings page, click the plus sign +.
  6. Under Choose an account to set up, tap Others.
  7. Enter your EarthLink email address and password (tap the Show password checkbox if you want to make sure you entered your password correctly.
  8. Tap the box next to Send email from this account by default if EarthLink will be your primary email account on the phone.
  9. Tap the Next button to have your phone attempt to add email server settings automatically (if that doesn’t work you may need to go back to this step and choose Manual setup).
  10. Confirm or change the default settings for how often you want to check for email, if you want to be notified, etc. Tap Next when you’re done.
  11. You should get a confirmation that your account is set up. You can now choose to give the account a name (otherwise it will just be listed as your email address) and choose how your name will be displayed on outgoing messages (if you don’t change it, your username will be displayed by default). Tap Next when you’re done.
  12. Tap Done with accounts at the bottom of the screen.

 Entering Email Settings Manually

  1. If step 9 above does not work to set up your phone automatically, you should choose Manual setup and then continue following these steps.
  2. Tap on POP3 account.
  3. Enter your full EarthLink email address as your User name and enter your email password.
  4. Enter pop.earthlink.net in the POP3 server field.
  5. In the Port field, enter 110.
  6. Tap on the Delete email from server field and choose When I delete from Inbox.
  7. Click Next to confirm your incoming server settings.
  8. Under SMTP server, enter smtpauth.earthlink.net.
  9. In the Port field, enter 587.
  10. Tab the Require sign-in box.
  11. Confirm your User name (should be your full email address) and password.
  12. Tap the Next button.
  13. Confirm or change the default settings for how often you want to check for email, if you want to be notified, etc. Tap Next when you’re done.
  14. You should get a confirmation that your account is set up. You can now choose to give the account a name (otherwise it will just be listed as your email address) and choose how your name will be displayed on outgoing messages (if you don’t change it, your username will be displayed by default). Tap Next when you’re done.
  15. Tap Done with accounts at the bottom of the screen.